By BROOKE WANSER
At the construction site on Corporate Centre Drive just north of Cool Springs Boulevard, workers and those who came to celebrate the opening of Franklin’s new Hilton Hotel craned their necks towards the soft blue sky, clapping as an American flag unfurled from atop the skeletal building.
“In this building, the last structural element is concrete,” said Michael Rankin, president and CEO of the project’s Nashville-based contractor Crain Construction. “It’s kind of challenging to pour concrete and have everyone watch that as the celebratory milestone,” he continued, before inviting guests who had donned hard-hats to watch the flag descend from the top floor.
Construction began on the hotel, a full-service, eight-story Hilton with 244 rooms, in early March, and it is slated to open next summer. Will Schaedle, the vice president of acquisitions and mergers for Chartwell Hospitality, a hotel development and management group based in Franklin, is the developer.
Matt Largen, the president and chief executive officer of Williamson, Inc., spoke to the gathering inside what would become the hotel lobby. He spoke about the hotel’s benefit to local businesses, citing a recent chamber study which found that 75 percent of hotel room nights are driven by the corporate business community in Williamson County.
“We see a lot of companies, because their corporation is based out of here, like Nissan, Community Health System, Trench Supply Company, that fuels demand for hotel rooms,” Largen said, “because they’ll have sales meetings, they’ll have vendor conferences, and they’ll have people travel in to get to their headquarters. I do know there’s a direct tie between the kind of companies here and the demand they have for hotel room nights and meeting space.”
Matt Maxey, the public relations manager of the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said tourism numbers continue to increase each year. Last year, the county saw a 9.4 percent increase in visitors at 1.43 million, and a 4 percent increase in economic impact at $427 million. “In comparison to other counties, that’s staggering,” Maxey said.
Though Maxey said the county did not have data on the reason for visits, he agreed with Largen: “Based on our hotel occupancies, during the week, we have a very strong business market.”
Largen said there are currently two full-service hotels in Franklin, the Marriott and the Embassy Suites, both a stone’s throw from the new Hilton.
As the city expands, Largen said one thing is sure: “You will see more hotels in the future in Williamson County.”